By Katie Keller
I came to Stanford looking for a student community as full of intellect, energy, creativity and civic commitment as I hoped to be when I graduated. When I started at The Daily my sophomore year, I knew I had found it. I found a new art form in journalism — a unique craft that marries interpersonal communication and writing to express a narrative that strikes satisfyingly at the truth. And I found peers at The Daily whose dedication to this craft was unbridled and infectious. I was instantly hooked.
One of the first things I noticed about The Daily was that at any given time of day or week of the quarter, you could always find someone at the House working on a story. People could be in an abyss of midterm exams and assignments, and yet something still called them to keep reporting, keep writing, keep perfecting their words and keep hitting overly optimistic deadlines. As I watched Daily staffers work longer and longer hours, I wondered what exactly it was that motivated them. It fell outside the usual incentives I recognized — money, academic units, prestige — but, whatever it was, I was beginning to sense that it was a powerful force. While this energy sometimes created dysfunctional workaholism and burnout in the newsroom, it was undeniable that there was something inimitably wonderful about the experience of student journalism that kept The Daily running.
As I moved from a staff writer to a news editor and eventually to co-managing the magazine, I began to feel this drive permeate my own core. Crafting a story from a nascent idea into a robust and beautiful piece of journalism uniquely satisfied my need for a creative outlet. Conceptualizing The Daily as a medium for creative expression helped me start to understand what was driving these students to pour themselves into the organization.
Like me, the people I met at The Daily cared deeply about the experiences and perspectives of others. Whether I was interviewing the chair of the Board of Trustees about University policy or chatting with fellow students about the subtleties of Stanford social circles, I loved how The Daily encouraged me to learn from my community. In our efforts to eliminate bias from our stories, we aimed to take an egalitarian and nonjudgmental approach to our sources’ diverse perspectives. I learned to keep an open mind, communicate with a wide range of individuals and find comfort in the grey areas and the nuance. For me, reporting became an interpersonal art form.
Ultimately, I believe this passion for individual narrative is an expression of Daily staffers’ genuine care for civic improvement. We are simultaneously big thinkers and incrementalists, visualizing sea changes in our opinions and highlighting reform at its very grassroots in our newsroom. I remember spending long nights at the House agonizing over the 2018 midterm elections, as well as weekly happy hours discussing the Stanford administration’s efforts to improve student life. I connected with my Daily friends through our shared belief that individual experiences matter, and that by highlighting these narratives we might inspire our community to make changes that would improve the lives of others.
Beyond this more civic drive, I think my fellow staffers and I are motivated by the uniquely gratifying experience of writing itself. There is joy to be derived from finding the perfect words and anecdotes to put together in creating a story. For me, this joy was amplified when I began working on the magazine and saw how graphic design can contribute to this craft. It’s difficult to describe the emergent property that comes from hours spent perfecting the words, structure and design of a piece, but it is what drives us.
Perhaps that property we strive toward is truth. We investigate and fact-check to present truthful information to our readers; we seek balanced and diverse sourcing to reflect the true range of opinions in our community; we include photos and graphic design that create a meaningful, cohesive and emotionally truthful reading experience. We don’t always succeed in these efforts, printing corrections and follow-ups when we realize we have erred. But expressing the truth is an alluring and addictive challenge for us that we share with journalists around the world.
The Daily fills the expressive need of innovative and perfectionist creators with a penchant for civic improvement. The paper was always as much for us as it was as it was for the rest of the Stanford community. Seeing our words, photos and design reflected in the paper or the magazine reminds us that our hard work was worthwhile. I am so grateful to The Daily for helping me find a creative process that fulfills me like nothing else, and for introducing me to other incredibly hardworking individuals — now lifelong friends — who share these values with me.
Contact Katie Keller at ktkeller ‘at’ stanford.edu.